Blog of the International Journal of Constitutional Law

Five Questions with Sabino Cassese

Richard Albert, Boston College Law School

“Five Questions with … ” is a brand new feature at I-CONnect. We will periodically invite a public law scholar to answer five questions about his or her research.

This edition features Sabino Cassese, currently Honorary President of the International Society of Public Law (ICON-S). His full bio follows below:

A university professor since 1961 (with two pauses, first in 1993-1994 when he was a member of the government, and then from 2005 to 2014 when he was a Justice on the Italian Constitutional Court), Professor Sabino Cassese has recently edited the “Research Handbook on Global Administrative Law” (Elgar 2016). He is the editor-in-chief of the “Rivista trimestrale di diritto pubblico” and of the “Giornale di diritto amministrativo.” Professor Cassese is a member of many editorial boards of foreign periodicals and has been awarded eight honorary doctorates from foreign and Italian universities. He has taught administrative and public law, constitutional law, State and the economy, global administrative law, comparative administrative law and has also published extensively on these subjects. Professor Cassese is presently teaching global law and governance at the School of Government at the LUISS Guido Carli University in Rome. His most recent book, just published, is on “Democracy and its Limits” (Milano, Mondadori, 2017).

1. Tell us about something you are working on right now.

I am currently working on the global dimension of democracy. My main questions are: Is there a universal concept of democracy? Is democracy a universal and shared value? And is there a universal right to democratic governance, a right that is necessarily a global right? Is there, or can there be, democracy at the global level? Is global democracy similar to national democracy? Does globalization hollow out national democracy? Or, on the contrary, may global bodies enhance national democracies? If the State is the place where democracy has developed, what will happen to democracy if the State becomes less important and many decisions are being taken by supranational or global actors? Will national democracy evaporate? Or will it be replaced by a cosmopolitan democracy?

2. How and when do you write? Do you have a routine or do you write whenever and wherever you find the time?

“Nulla dies sine linea” (Not a day without a line), said Greek painter Apelles, according to the Roman philosopher Pliny. I follow his advice. Never does a day pass (including holidays and weekends) without reading or writing. My apartment, public libraries, university offices, planes, trains, airports, are good places to work, read, take notes, prepare drafts, and re-read texts.

3. Whose scholarship jumps to the top of your reading list when she or he publishes something new? 

I never miss reading new articles or books written by Yves Meny, Armin von Bogdandy, Pasquale Pasquino (he should collect in one or two volumes all his papers, most of them unknown to the large public), Paul Craig, Joseph Weiler, Bernard Manin, and Raoul van Caenegem.

4. Is there an article or book that influenced you as a student and that continues today to be an important reference point for you?

I continue to go back to the works of French historian Fernand Braudel, of the German public law professor Carl Schmitt, of the British constitutional law teacher Albert Venn Dicey, and of the German novelist Thomas Mann. Their major contributions capture the spirit of their and of our time, and are a source of inspiration.

5. What are some of the big questions ripe for inquiry in your area of research interest?

I think that some of the major issues of our time are: What is the future of democracy? Where do we go from here? How to fight authoritarian populism? And can horizontal accountability balance the deficiencies of national democracies?


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